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WHO calls special meeting to discuss new Covid variant found in South Africa

The World Health Organization is monitoring a new variant with numerous mutations to the spike protein, scheduling a special meeting Friday to discuss what it may mean for vaccines and treatments, officials said Thursday.

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WHO calls special meeting to discuss new Covid variant found in South Africa
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The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO.

“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the organization’s social media channels.

The monitoring of the new variant comes as Covid cases surge around the world heading into the holiday season, with the WHO reporting hot spots in all regions and particularly in Europe.

South African scientists have detected more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to cells in the body, South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira said in a media briefing hosted by the South Africa Department of Health on Thursday.

The B.1.1.529 variant contains multiple mutations associated with increased antibody resistance, which may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, along with mutations that generally make it more contagious, according to slides he presented at the briefing.

Other mutations in the new variant haven’t been seen until now, so scientists don’t yet know whether they are significant or will change how the virus behaves, according to the presentation.

The variant has spread rapidly through the Gauteng province, which contains the country’s largest city of Johannesburg. 

“Especially when the spike happens in Gauteng, everybody travels in and out of Gauteng from all corners of South Africa. So it’s a given that in the next few days, the beginning of rising positivity rate and numbers is going to be happening. It’s a matter of days and weeks before we see that,” South Africa Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said during the briefing.

The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, Phaahla said. 

“Right now, researchers are getting together to understand where these mutations are in the spike protein and the furin cleavage site, and what that potentially may mean for our diagnostics or therapeutics and our vaccines,” Van Kerkhove said. She said there are fewer than 100 full genome sequences of the new mutation.

The virus evolution working group will decide if B.1.1.529 will become a variant of interest or a variant of concern, after which the WHO would assign the variant a Greek name, Van Kerkhove said.

“It’s really important that there are no knee-jerk responses here, especially with relation to South Africa,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program, said.

SOURCE: CNBC

Faisal Ali Ghumman

Mr. Ghumman is a seasoned journalist who has 19 years of diversified experience in print, electronic and digital media. He has worked with 92 News HD, Daily Pakistan Today, Daily The Business, Daily Dawn, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer as News Reporter, Feature Writer, Editor, Web Content Editor and Article Writer. Mr Ghumman has graduated from the Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is currently enrolled in M.Phil in Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.

Sports

13 Belenenses players contract Omicron variant; 44 quarantine 

As many as 44 players and staff at Belenenses are now quarantining while Benfica has not taken the same steps due to what it calls low-risk for getting the virus from their opponents.

Published by Mehak Javed

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13 Belenenses players contract Omicron variant; 44 quarantine 

Thirteen players at Portuguese club Belenenses have tested positive for the newly discovered COVID variant ‘Omicron’, upon return from national team duty in South Africa.

As many as 44 players and staff at Belenenses are now quarantining while Benfica has not taken the same steps due to what it calls low-risk for getting the virus from their opponents.

It has now been confirmed all 13 players have the Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa last week.

The players, reportedly, wanted to cancel the game, but officials pressed forward with the contest. 

Meanwhile, Portugal’s health authorities are also sequencing the viruses from two passengers who tested positive for COVID after flying in from Maputo, Mozambique. 

Portugal’s health institute INSA, said in a statement that “there is still no scientific data to support [the Omicron variant’s] greater transmissibility or its ability to reduce the effectiveness of current vaccines.”

The World Health Organization (WHO), has declared the new strain a ‘variant of concern’.

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Pakistan

18.8 million mobile units manufactured in Pakistan in 10 months: Dawood

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood on Tuesday said domestic manufacturing mobile plants in Pakistan produced 18.87 million mobile units during the period of January to October 2021.

Published by Faisal Ali Ghumman

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18.8 million mobile units manufactured in Pakistan in 10 months: Dawood

During the period of January to October 2021, domestic manufacturing mobile plants in Pakistan produced 18.87 million mobile units, including 7.93 million 4G mobile phones compared to 9.45 million imported mobile phones.

The Ministry of Commerce’s ‘Make in Pakistan’ philosophy is giving the results and “we look forward for sustainable growth for the long run.”

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Pakistan

Court orders former chief judge Rana Shamim to submit original affidavit within 5 days

"Rana Shamim had tried to convince the people to lose confidence in court"

Published by Siddra Sumreen

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Court orders former chief judge Rana Shamim to submit original affidavit within 5 days

Islamabad: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday has ordered Gilgit Baltistan former chief judge Rana Shamim to submit the original draft of the original affidavit within five days.

According to details, Islamabad High Court (IHC) bench headed by Justice Athar Minallah took up contempt of court case over the affidavit of Rana Shamim. 

During the proceeding, Justice Athar Minallah remarked that Rana Shamim had tried to convince the people to lose confidence in court.

He remarked that if the original affidavit was found different from the affidavit being reported. Then the responsibility will be on the newspaper.

Rana Shamim told court that his affidavit was sealed one, but he did not know which affidavit was reported.

IHC CJ Athar Minallah directed the former GB chief judge to submit his original affidavit in the court along with his written response in the case within five days and adjourned the hearing of the case for seven days.

Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan requested the court to take action against Rana Shamim.

The court adjourned the hearing till December 7.

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